In a recent session with my therapist I taught her the term “ghosting”. I kind of love having a therapist that is noticeably older than me, it makes me feel young and hip. Mostly. Sort of. Although I’m not sure there is anything hip about having to describe ghosting to anyone. Particularly if it pertains to your own love life.
“It’s when you’re dating someone and then they suddenly stop talking to you. One day they are there and then ‘poof’, they’re gone. Like a ghost,” I explained.
“And then the memory of them haunts you,” she added.
I was stunned at her profound understanding of this previously unknown to her concept. It had never occurred to me that what follows ghosting is haunting. We are haunted by the person. We are haunted by the lack of closure we receive.
But let’s be honest, the idea of closure is fiction. We rarely get it and when we do, it doesn’t come in the nicely wrapped package we were hoping for.
So instead of learning to let go, we hang on to hope. Sometimes it’s hope that the person will come back. Mostly it seems to be hope that we will somehow get the closure we were looking for in the first place. More often than not we get neither. We sit haunted, waiting for a ghost that is never going to return.
When I was 23 I ended a relationship by simply cutting off contact. After returning from a friend’s wedding in my hometown I decided to end things without a word. I know what you’re thinking, “Kelly, you ghosted him!!”. You’re right, but hear me out.
We had been “together” on and off for almost three years. At the time I ghosted him he was involved with someone else. A fact I’m not proud to admit and an incredible source of personal shame. He was toxic for me. And persistent. And I didn’t trust myself to end it any other way.
So I simply stopped responding to his text messages and ignored his 2 A.M. phone calls. Eventually he they stopped coming.
Months later, on my last day in London, as I walked down the high street we both lived on, I ran into him. Moments before I had learned I didn’t get the job that was meant to be my salvation, and suddenly my return to the States would be indefinite. Lost in my own head filled with thoughts of overwhelming grief and regret I didn’t notice him approaching. I had no time to prepare for this moment.
Consumed by sadness, that for once had nothing to do with him, I kept our interaction brief. I was moving back to the States. I was leaving today. I pretended to be sorry to have not told him sooner. In the end, it was less painful than I would have imagined as we hugged and went our separate ways.
But in the months and years that followed I ruminated on the lack of closure in our relationship. I needed to tie things up with a nice neat bow. And much like our relationship had been, its ending was chaotic and messy. I wanted to clean up the mess.
Three years later, to the exact date, we both found ourselves in San Francisco. Despite apprehensions and the threat of a mild panic attack, I agreed to see him. I was convinced I was finally going get my closure.
What I got was far from it. I got drunk on shots he insisted on buying and an ear full about how perhaps he hadn’t made the right decision, and if I had only tried harder things might have turned out differently. What I got was sucked back in.
The next morning, with eyes swollen from tears and a hangover the size of the Golden Gate Bridge, I drove to Phoenix. Between phone calls to girlfriends in order to rehash the details of the night before, I listened to every Jason Mraz and John Mayer song on my iPod. I wallowed in the pain of this reopened wound. I made no attempts to let it heal.
In the days that followed, our contact increased. Without skipping a beat the late night texts and phone calls recommenced. Closure was nowhere to be found. In fact, the opposite was happening. I had pulled the door wide open for him. Again.
He never fully walked through it. I couldn’t bring myself to let him, and he eventually faded back out of my life. With an ocean between us now, it has become clear that closure is something you find on your own.